Employee Engagement and the Art of the Exit Interview
Retaining top talent should be a high priority for any leader looking to create a high performance environment.
Research tells us that employee engagement is paramount to keeping your best folks on board, and it is a powerful indicator of how successful your enterprise will be. Based upon surveying over 500,000 employees across 5,000 companies every year, we know that engaged employees are as much as 40% more productive than unengaged coworkers. Increasing an organization’s employee engagement is not simply a ‘nice to have;’ adopting best practices from employee engagement training is a critical factor in a company’s overall performance.
So when an employee decides to “jump ship” for whatever reason, best practices tell you to conduct an exit interview. Done right, such an interview can give you valuable information on improving retention, raising levels of engagement, and ways to guard against increased competition for talent.
Here is how to do it right…
Contrary to popular thinking, exit interviews often provide more valuable information when they are conducted anytime from one month up to a year after the employee has left. After a period of time, employees are less emotional and less concerned about answering honestly; often they need to rely on their prior manager’s favorable reference for their next position and are unlikely to be critical.
Once installed in a new job, previous employees are better able to make comparisons and more open to discussing the true reasons for leaving. If you are concerned about their participation after so much time has passed, we have found that, generally, former employees like to be asked their opinions and willingly share their thoughts.
To encourage meaningful feedback, whoever is assigned to conduct the interview needs to be as objective as possible. Your choice should either be someone from HR or a neutral expert from outside the company. It should be made clear that comments will be confidential. It is important to outline the process, be clear about the purpose of the interview, and indicate what questions will be asked and who will be reviewing the answers. To ensure the former employee’s comfort with the process and encourage their honest disclosures, they should be given the option to skip over any questions they are unwilling to answer.
Depending upon what you hope to learn and do with the data, questions can range from the general “how did you feel about your experience working here” to “what could we have done to persuade you to stay,” from “did you have enough learning opportunities to perform your job effectively” to “what have you been offered in your new position that we did not.”
Once the feedback is gathered, you need to figure out what suggestions are actionable and which are not. You want to ensure that if mistakes were made they are not repeated. If management was at fault, it is important to address the problems right away or attrition will continue. To know whether your remedies are having a positive effect, measure the impact. You could try a survey of the manager’s team as a whole to see if appropriate changes have been made.
There is an art to a properly executed exit interview. It can teach you a great deal about what is working and what is not at your organization.